COOK COUNTY – It's just too hard to get Republicans elected in Democrat-dominated Cook County and Chicago, so there's an effort to throw in the towel and wipe out partisan labels in the county's elections.
At least that's what it sounds like Cook County GOP Chairman Sean Morrison is pushing to happen in the state's largest county – with the help of IL GOP Governor Rauner.
Morrison – who also serves on the Cook County Board as one its few Republicans – is asking for help for a petition drive to "get a binding referendum question on the ballot that would make elections for all Cook County countywide offices non-partisan."
"This initiative, if we are successful, will have a longstanding impact on our ability to run candidates countywide," Morrison wrote to the Palos Township GOP Friday.
Indeed. Morrison was unable to get candidates to run in Cook County's countywide races this time around. Democrats are running unopposed – making the Republican platform and its public policy positions unavailable for Republicans living in the county.
Skeptical Republicans are telling Illinois Review that they think the effort is a waste of time and resources. Chairman Morrison and the Rauner campaign evidently came up with this idea on their own because Cook County committeemen were not asked to vote on the proposal and overall there was not open discussion of any kind.
When asked about it, Illinois Review received no response from the effort's organizer and Rauner campaign employee Shaun McCabe. McCabe has been charged with gathering at least 107,000 signatures by August 6 – a month away.
Even Morrison admits on his appeal for help,"…This is going to be an extremely heavy lift."
Those that he needs to help circulate petitions are shaking their heads.
"This is a Sean Morrison thing," one Cook County Republican told IR, on condition of not being named. "This is further erosion of the Republican brand. It's an effort by people who fundamentally don't believe Republicans have anything to sell to the voters."
The non-partisan ballot initiative for Cook County would emulate California's open primary setup. Political parties that have given up – as the Republicans in California have for the most part – advocate "non-partisan" elections.
The talking points Morrison promotes for non-partisan elections are:
- We need to get partisan politics out of Cook County government.
- County government is supposed to the serve the people it represents, not partisan political insiders.
- Nonpartisan elections allow voters to fairly consider the issues and choose officials in government who represent their interests, not a political party’s.
- Candidates and policies should be judged on their merits, not on whether they have Republican or Democrat listed next them.
- To root out the corruption and cronyism that has dominated Cook County government for decades, all elected positions should be made nonpartisan.
- The drive for nonpartisan elections in Cook County complements the push for term limits on all elected officials in state government
- Every level of government in Illinois needs to be cleaned up.
- At a time when government at all levels seems riddled with dysfunction, Cook County can make a clean break with business as usual and take partisanship out of the way we choose our county leaders.
- It’s a commonsense solution that will benefit every Cook County resident and empower voters over the political machine.
- More than forty years of one party rule has taken a fiscal toll on Cook County residents, and this is our opportunity to level the playing field.
Republicans in Cook County will be setting the path for other party-controlled electoral regions that could eventually end up with the whole state being non-partisan, as California is.